What do you think of first when you think of Iran? Western media and policy often frame Iran as either an ultra-religious backwater or a fierce nemesis. The reality of Iran is much more complex. As journalist Laura Secor puts it, “Iran is not a happy place, but it is a dignified one.” Secor offers a unique approach to Iran’s history since 1979: examining it through the eyes of citizens who loved their country enough to try to reform it. Her deftly interwoven portraits reveal Iran’s inseparable and often contradictory intellectual, cultural and political development.
The 1979 Iranian revolution traces its origins to Western colonialism.
The 1979 revolution had its roots in Iran’s colonial history. For decades, Britain and the United States took Iran’s oil and installed leaders amenable to foreign interests. Political repression and economic inequality were rampant.
There was a brief window of relative freedom under a British-installed king, Mohammad Reza Shah, in the 1950s. The thaw allowed reformer Mohammad Mossadegh to achieve the office of prime minister and make significant headway toward his goals of restoring Iranian control of its oil resources and implementing rule of law. However, in 1953, America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) backed a coup against Mossadegh over fears about his supposed communist leanings. Mohammad Reza Shah became much more tyrannical after this experience, and repression redoubled.
Revolutionaries hoped to craft a uniquely Iranian state.
Meanwhile, resistance was quietly fomenting. As a teacher in the Iranian countryside, poet Samad Behrangi saw firsthand how divided Iran was between the Westernized urban elites and the rural poor...